Now You See Me

By DiAnne Crown

July 12, 2016 3 min read

For traditionalists, wedding rules should never change. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue -- and the couple will absolutely not see each other on the wedding day. But many couples are rewriting the wedding day playbook beginning with that first look. Midwest photographer Holly Birch Smith explains why everyone wins.

"It's a long tradition to have some space in the ceremony before the bride comes down the aisle, the guests first see the bride, and the couple sees each other for the first time." But, with everyone watching, it's hard to look relaxed and natural in that moment, says Smith. "If the couple sees each other before the ceremony, you eliminate that pressure. They can take a deep breath and enjoy that time."

So in recent years, photographers have offered first-look photo shoots in a scenic location just before the ceremony to privately capture the moment when the bride and groom first see each other in their wedding attire. If Smith is the only photographer, couples usually want her to photograph the groom's face when he first sees the bride. If she has an assistant, they photograph both the bride and groom. Couples decide in advance whether they want full-length views or close-ups for the first-view reactions, Smith explains.

The couple may also wish to take all of the other portrait shots at the same time, which creates a lot of freedom for the couple, the photographer and the guests.

Ainsley Reiser and Kip McDaniel wanted the intimacy of first-look photos and the ease of pre-ceremony portraits for their June wedding. Reiser says she had dreamed of the moment when she and her fiance would first see each other dressed and ready for their wedding ever since she was a little girl. "It's such a special moment, so sweet and innocent when you see each other for the first time. It's one of the most exciting moments of the wedding. I wanted to capture that so I could look at it forever," says Reiser.

It was all she had hoped for. "Holly made us feel so comfortable, like we were celebrities. She made every moment special, from where we were standing to how the lighting looked," says Reiser.

"There's something so special about that moment you can share together instead of seeing each other and then the ceremony starts," Reiser says. "It's invaluable to have that moment together for yourselves to take a step back. For us, it's going to be something we have forever that never gets old to look at."

About half of Smith's couples want the intimacy of pre-ceremony photos. She hopes more will join the trend. "Taking the first looks and portraits before the ceremony helps make the timeline of the day go smoother," says Smith. "If we wait until after the ceremony, guests have to wait for the entire photo shoot, couples miss out on a lot of time with their guests, and photographers often have to rush the pictures."

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